HURRICANE – The Hurricane City Council met in a special work meeting Thursday night at the Hurricane Community Center to discuss joining the Hurricane Valley Fire District, and the conversation pointed toward pooling resources with LaVerkin, Toquerville and Virgin, mainly due to cost savings.
The current fire district structure that is being discussed is for Hurricane to pay for approximately 72 percent of the operating costs, with the three other entities covering the remaining 28 percent, Hurricane City Manager Clark Fawcett said. For instance, Fawcett said, annual operating costs are $1,453,000; under the proposed structure, Hurricane’s portion would be $1,046,000.
Tasked with keeping up fire service at a high level, Hurricane Fire Chief Tom Kuhlmann said the district model would broaden the base and distribute costs; for instance, it could save approximately $1.3 million in construction costs for two new fire stations. The five-year plan calls for four new stations – three in Hurricane and one in LaVerkin, Kuhlmann said.
“We couldn’t stay at the same level of service without the district,” City Councilman Kevin Tervort said, pointing out that, as a district, all will pay their fair share.
As Hurricane grows, Kuhlmann said, in order to keep the same level of service the city would have to give up other things, such as parks, if it does not join the district.
One perk of being part of the fire district that Kuhlmann mentioned would be greater opportunities for government grant funds due to, on average, a lower-level resident income average if all municipalities within the district are in the equation. In general, the more cities within a district, the more conducive the district is to landing grants, Mayor John Bramall said.
Additionally, being part of a district will legitimize what is being done and simplify the process, Bramall said. As the cities within the district grow, the cost per city will be less. If there are enough fire stations, the main increase in cost would be hiring more manpower, Fawcett said.
Being part of the district would also benefit municipalities outside the district and residents living in unincorporated county land, Bramall said. As an example, he said, a fire district in Dixie Springs would benefit Washington City since it is close via Washington Dam Road.
If Hurricane becomes part of the district, the council said it would favor a smaller fire board of five to seven members over a board with nine members. Currently, the board is made up of the mayor and a council member from each municipality as well as one at-large slot.
Fawcett pointed out that there will be detractors to joining the fire district, after which Councilwoman Ethelyn Humphries said the last time Hurricane was in the fire district was in 2010. It was a member for approximately six months and then pulled out, which made the city look incompetent, she said.
“I’m willing to take the heat (to stay in the district),” Bramall said, and asked each council member if they were willing to do the same.
Each one answered in the affirmative.
Councilwoman Pam Humphries said the next step would be to sit down and discuss the matter with the other members of the district in a meeting they set for Oct. 29 at 5:30 p.m. in the Hurricane City Council Chambers.
At the end of the meeting, the mayor asked for public comment. Resident Don Triptow voiced his concerns about the last brief go-around in the district and asked, “Is a little tiny gain worth this fussing around?”
Bramall said it was worth it, predicting that down the line joining the district could save the city up to $400,000 a year.
“The future savings are better than the immediate savings,” he said.
Bramall, the council and Kuhlmann assured Triptow that the public would not be left in the dark and that no decision would be made without due diligence, including public hearings.
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